Several parents, students and teachers in Baltimore city public schools are fed up with failing heating systems that have caused severely cold classrooms once again, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Community members have tweeted photos of children wearing thick winter coats while huddled in classrooms as well as of thermometers with frigid temperatures inside of old school buildings, according to the Sun. The freezing rooms, along with water issues, had prompted several school closures across the beleaguered district Tuesday amid a “code blue” warning for dangerously cold weather in effect.
“Over the winter break, facilities staff monitored schools to check on heating systems, plumbing, and electricity,” city schools spokeswoman Edie House-Foster said in a statement published by WBAL Baltimore. “Numerous problems were identified and resolved. Unfortunately, with the extreme temperatures, new problems can emerge quickly.We have many schools with leaky windows and outdated heating systems that have a hard time keeping up. With extreme temperatures, we have the added challenge of freezing pipes and water main breaks.”
Woodhome Elementary/Middle, Elementary/Middle Alternative Program and Frederick Elementary either closed or dismissed early Tuesday, according to district officials. Calverton, Elementary/Middle Alternative Program, KIPP Harmony Academy and Lakeland schools were closed Wednesday due to “facilities issues.” Baltimore schools provided updates on the issues and closures via its Twitter page this week.
The big chill prompted Jeffrey San Filippo, a social studies teacher at Calverton Elementary/Middle, to post a Twitter photo that showed the mercury in his classroom hitting the mid-30s around 9 a.m. Students had to go to the cafeteria for class because it was “slightly warmer.” “When it’s too cold to be inside classes, that’s just way too far,” San Filippo said about the longtime heating issue that has plagued the district, reaching a tipping point last winter.
The safest thing would be to close schools until the heating issues are repaired city-wide, Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English said in a statement. “There’s no way they can teach, and children can learn, in classrooms with no heat,” she said.
But the no heat problems speaks to another important issue other than safety. The dire circumstances highlight a need for more education funding, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous said when he addressed the cold classrooms in a live-streamed speech Tuesday evening. An additional $1.9 billion in state funding and $1 billion in local funding would be needed to adequately fund Maryland’s schools, a study released last year found. Schools would require an additional $358 million annually in Baltimore.